Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2018 – reviews

Now well into its second decade, the Women’s Prize for Fiction is firmly established, is respected throughout the world and has made a major impact on the literary landscape in the UK and beyond.  Here are some reviews of books that have been longlisted this year –

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine 

By Gail Honeyman 

Eleanor Oliphant lives a quiet, isolated life and sticks to her routine. She eats the same things, wears the same clothes and keeps to herself. Then one day she helps a stranger and her world opens up. As she learns there is a lot more to life, we learn there is a lot more to Eleanor Oliphant.

Despite its sad subject matter, this was an entertaining and sometimes hilarious read.  Eleanor is a perfect character: you laugh with her, you despair at her and you route for her the whole way.

Three Things About Elsie 

By Joanna Cannon 

Florence is eighty-six and living in Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. She is trying to behave herself and not forget so many things, helped all the time by her best friend Elsie. We learn two important things about Elsie quickly but it’s the third thing about her that makes this novel exceptional.

You can tell Joanna Cannon has a background in psychiatry as we really get to see inside the minds of the characters and she has some great insights on human nature.

H(a)ppy 

By Nicola Barker 

Mina A is H(a)ppy. Her and the rest of The Young live in a world without pain, want, fear or death. They all strive to remain in balance and avoid an excess of emotion. But when Mina A starts writing her own narrative, she struggles to maintain her feelings.

This was unlike anything I’d ever read before. The story argues with itself, desperately trying not to be told. It has a unique and unpredictable layout, where every page is a surprise.

The shortlist is due to be announced tomorrow, Monday 23 April.

 Philippa, Brompton Library  

 

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Kate Greenaway Media 2018

 

The CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal shortlist was announced last month. It’s an interesting collection of books, some for older children and some for younger, with one non-fiction entry.  What they all have in common is that they are all beautifully illustrated, and the illustrations really add to the power of the story-telling and the information giving.

The winner will be announced on Monday 18 June, (along with the winner of the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2018) and here’s our thoughts about the chosen books –

Town is by the Sea

The story of a boy as he goes about his day in the seaside town that he lives in.  During his day, thinks about his father, below the sea, mining for coal.  We see the underground and the over-ground life of the town.  The story is beautifully brought to life by the illustrations and it’s easy to imagine that you are with him as he goes about his day. I found the book really engaging and the illustrations very much brought it to life.

Under the Same Sky

A picture book showing different animals all living together under the same sky, and in the same ways as us.  Very simple and moving.

 King of the Sky

A boy makes friends with an elderly neighbour who keeps and races pigeons.  The man shows the boy how to handle the pigeons and gives him one of his own.  He calls him “Re del Cielo”, King of the Sky.  But can the pigeon with the milk-white head win a race?

 A First Book of Animals

The only non-fiction book on the shortlist, this large book with full page illustrations, takes the reader through the wonderful world of animals.  Including specific breeds, as well as insects and even coral with some information about eggs, how animals find water and animal home.  The illustrations are bright and colourful and the text is written in an entertaining way while packing in many facts!  I think this book has been created really well with young children in mind and they would find it very engaging. A keepsake book that can be looked at again and again.

Thornhill

This book was very intriguing.  A combination of diary entries and illustrations, the book tells the story of two girls living in the same place but 30 years apart.  One girl is living in an orphanage and being bullied and the other lives in a house opposite and often finds herself home along while her dad is it work.  She can’t resist exploring the old orphanage and the two girls become linked, even though they never knew each other.  It’s a dark tale and the format and the black and white illustrations suit the story.  Creepy in parts and sometimes very sad. I wanted to keep reading and I wanted to know what happened.  I liked the unusual format but I thought the story would have been richer if the written parts were not only diary entries, or if there could have been pictures and writing for both characters.

Night Shift

This book is very powerful and very simple.  Drawing on her own experiences, the author uses a dragon to show what it is like to fight depression.  The book takes you into the heart of the pain and loneliness of the illness and brings you out of the other side.  A very helpful book to give young sufferers hope and to let them know that they are not alone.

The Song from Somewhere Else

This book deals with similar themes to Thornhill – bullying, isolation and also includes black and white illustrations.  What I liked about this book is that it shows that things pass, that we can find friendship in unusual places and that people and situations are not always what they seem.  This is an engaging book with magical elements, brought to life by the illustrations.

Fiona, Brompton Library

 

Inspirational female authors: Helen Dunmore

To celebrate 2018 being the centenary of women’s right to vote, we are reviewing one book a month by a female author. We started things off last month, on International Women’s Day, with ‘The Power’ by Naomi Alderman.

For April, I’ve chosen the poignant ‘Birdcage Walk’ by Helen Dunmore. As we are celebrating female authors, I felt it was appropriate to choose a novel that explores how a female writer from the eighteenth century could be completely forgotten by history.

‘Birdcage Walk’ is set in Bristol during the outbreak of the French Revolution. The main character is Lizzie Fawkes, a young woman conflicted by the ideals instilled in her by her radical, writer mother and her sense of duty to her husband. We witness how all the characters are affected by the revolution in Europe. Lizzie’s feminist mother and her friends welcome the change that the revolution promises. But for Lizzie’s husband, a property developer, the uncertainty the revolution creates means disaster.

I thought the plot was brilliantly unpredictable and all the characters were complex and well rounded. I felt the prologue added an interesting perspective as before we even meet any of the protagonists, we learn that their story will be almost entirely lost to history.

My favourite aspect of ‘Birdcage Walk’ is how personal it feels, as despite being historical fiction it gives an intimate view of one family’s life.

See you in May for our next review.

Philippa, Brompton Library

International Women’s Day – inspirational female authors

Today, Thursday 8 March is International Women’s Day; a date to inspire and celebrate women around the world, a celebration that began for over a century ago. It started with the campaign for better pay and voting rights and this is particularly pertinent this year as 2018 marks 100 years since women were first given the vote.

To celebrate, we will be reviewing one book a month written by inspirational female authors.

We’ll start things off with the electrifying ‘The Power’ by Naomi Alderman.
Like a lot of great plots, ‘The Power’ is based on a “what if?” idea. What if women suddenly had the power to cause incredible pain with the flick of their fingers? This is exactly what happens in this novel and we get to witness how this changes everything on a global scale.

Although we are shown the impact on the entire world, the book focuses on four main characters. There’s Roxy, the teenager from a criminal background who discovers the extent of her new found ability, and there’s Margot, ambitious for more political power. Then there’s Allie, who walks away from her troubled childhood to become the leader of a new religion. And there’s Tunde, a young male reporter who witnesses the dramatic global events unfold.

I loved how much this book toyed with my emotions, as one minute I was euphoric and the next horrified. It is impossible to read this without reflecting on how its themes of power and the abuse of power affect the world today.  This will appeal to fans of Margaret Atwood and anyone ready to view the world differently.

See you next month.

Philippa, Brompton Library

Author Katherine Arden to visit Brompton Library

We are very excited to announce that in April author, Katherine Arden will visit Brompton Library. Katherine is the author of The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower, the first two books in the Winternight trilogy. She will read from the third book in the trilogy, The Winter of the Witch, which is due to be published in August this year. The trilogy is inspired by the fairy tales and folklore of medieval Russia that Katherine read while living there, and set in its snowy landscape.

To celebrate her visit, we will be reading the first two Winternight novels during February and March. Join us on Thursday 8 February when we will be discussing The Bear and the Nightingale which has been described as haunting, lyrical and a beautiful deep-winter story full of magic and monsters.

In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, an elderly servant tells stories of sorcery, folklore and the Winter King to the children of the family, tales of old magic frowned upon by the church.

But for the young, wild Vasya, these are far more than just stories. She alone can see the house spirits that guard her home, and sense the growing forces of dark magic in the woods…

‘Frost-demons have no interest in mortal girls wed to mortal men. In the stories, they only come for the wild maiden.’

These books are suitable for children aged 14 years plus. Katherine says:

“My absolute favorite thing to hear from a reader: ‘I read your book and then I gave it to my daughter.’”

To get your copy, please visit Brompton Library, or email libraries@rbkc.gov.uk to get a copy sent to your local library.

If you’d like to attend the special reading group meeting in February, please book a place via Eventbrite

Edited to add – the next meeting of this special reading group will be on Thursday 8 March where they’ll discuss the second book in Katherine’s trilogy, ‘The Girl in Tower’. For more info or to book your free place, please visit Eventbrite

Fiona at Brompton Library

Bond behind the scenes

Last week we had a reading list from the staff at Brompton Library all about Young James Bond. This week they’re back with a collection of books that take us behind the scenes of Britain’s most successful action movie series.

Some Kind of Hero: The Remarkable Story of the James Bond Films

Following the highs and lows of the Bond film franchise from when it started in the 1960s up to its present day resurgence in popularity. Drawing on hundreds of previously unpublished interviews with cast and crew, a definitive guide for all fans.

Bond on Bond

Who better to give an inside look at the Bond films than everyone’s favourite Bond, Roger Moore. Giving us his inside view with his inimitable charm and charisma, Moore talks us through all the bond films and his involvement in them. Accompanied by many great shots of the gadgets, the cars and the Bonds’ themselves on the set and behind the scenes, this is the ultimate James Bond guide written by the ultimate Bond.

Blood, Sweat and Bond: Behind the Scenes of Spectre

A photographic account of the filming of Spectre with many great shots of the sets, the fight scenes and the actors at work and at play. There are also little bits of information about costumes, sets and shooting, as well as quotes from cast and crew. A beautiful book to savour over long after the film is finished.

We’ll be back with more reading lists soon, and do let us know (in the comments below) if Roger Moore isn’t your favourite Bond…

The staff at Brompton Library

Young James Bond

The staff at Brompton Library, after a well-deserved Christmas break, are back with some more reading lists – this time they’re about Bond, James Bond…

The last Ian Fleming Bond stories to be published was in 1966, two years after the writer’s death. Did you know that since then, there have been over 30 Bond novels and stories written by other authors including Kingsley Amis and Anthony Horowitz?

Not only that, but writer Charlie Higson has also created as series of novels based on the early life of the spy during his school years at Eton. Critics immediately dismissed the idea that the Young Bond novels would do justice to the iconic character of Bond but, after the publication of SilverFin, the first in the series, the critics were silenced and the whole series went on to achieve great success, including being made into a game and a series of graphic novels. There is even talk of a film being made, although this has not yet been confirmed. Charlie Higson has always said that he wanted to stay true to Ian Fleming’s vision of Bond and has only read the Fleming’s Bond stories.

Here is a summary of each of his Young Bond novels, all of which are available in our libraries in a range of formats from graphic novels to audiobooks, as well as paperbacks.

SilverFin

It’s James’ first day at Eton and he soon makes friends, and enemies. During the summer break he visits Scotland where he meets a boy called Red Kelly who’s looking for his missing cousin. They venture up the hill to Lake Silverfin where the adventure is just beginning.

Blood Fever

Back at Eton, James is now a member of a secret risk-taking club known as the Danger Society and one of his classmate’s family has gone missing. The summer brings more mystery and adventure when he travels to Sardinia on a field trip with one of his professors. He discovers another secret society known as the Millenia, a society who want to restore the Roman Empire. Is there a connection? Only Bond will find out…

Double or Die

Set entirely in England during Christmas, when a professor is kidnapped at gun point, a suspicious letter full of cryptic clues arrives at Eton leading Bond into the darkest corners of London. Once he as solved the clues, he has just forty-eight hours to save not just the professor, but the future of the rest of the world. Classic bond with Russian villains, a casino scene and a car chase, but will he get the girl in the end?

Hurricane Gold

Only danger is guaranteed in the exhilarating chase set in the Mexican jungle. Taken out of school by his aunt, James relaxes in the Mexican sun. When his aunt leaves him with the children of war hero Jack Stone, they get caught up in a political storm with gangsters, stolen government documents and a chase that leads to a Caribbean island.

By Royal Command

Following a treacherous Alpine rescue mission, Bond is back at Eton. All is not as it seems though, as his every move is being watched. He holds the clue to a sinister plot that will bring bloodshed and carnage to his school and his country. The only solution is to flee to Austria with only a beautiful but dangerous girl by his side. A nightmare reunion with a bitter enemy once again plunges him into the face of death.

We hope you enjoyed this, we’ll be back next week with more Bond books.

Staff at Brompton Library

Christmas modern crime fiction

The staff at Brompton Library have been really busy – putting together Christmas reading lists for children and adults alike. We’ve been publishing a list every morning since Tuesday on the blog this week.

Today our last list is Christmas modern crime fiction –

Merry Christmas Alex Cross

When Detective Alex Cross gets a phone call on the night before Christmas, he knows he won’t be good news. Henry Fowler has kidnapped his ex-wife and his children. He is high, armed and dangerously unstable. Meanwhile, a major terrorist attack is unfolding. Will Alex save the day…?

Murder in the Dark

Set in Australia in the 1920s our heroine Phryne Fisher, wealth aristocrat and private detective, is invited to the Last Best Party of 1928. When three party guest go missing, Phyrne must follow the scavenger hunt clues to find them. Part of the Phryne Fisher series.

The Other Mrs Walker

A detective story without a detective. When Mrs Walker passes away in a frosty, Edinburgh flat, she leaves only an emerald dress, six orange pips and a Brazil nut engraved with the ten commandments. Meanwhile, Margaret finds herself back in Edinburgh on a whim and working for the Office for Lost People. Given the task of finding out who Mrs Walker was, the unusual collection of objects leads her into the past of Mrs Walker and ultimately into her own story.

A Maigret Christmas

Nine of Simeon’s best Christmas tales set in Paris that see Inspector Maigret on cat and mouse chases all over the city, including following the trail of a mysterious intruder dressed in red and white. We see his paternal heart, as he is helped on many of the cases by some bright children.

How the Light Gets In

When Chief Inspector Gamache is sent to Three Pines to investigate the disappearance of a colleague’s friend, he discovers that the missing person is one of the most famous in the world. With no one he can trust, can he find a safe place for himself and his trusted colleagues?

Dying for Christmas

A chilling twist on the twelve days of Christmas when an obsessed stalker takes the object of his obsession hostage, he tries to win her over with a bizarre “gift” on each of the twelve days. Terrified that the final gift will be her death, Jessica has her own secret. Will it be enough to save her life?

We really hope you enjoyed these lists and have been inspired to try a festive read. Our libraries are open as usual up until Christmas Eve, more info here

Staff at Brompton Library

PS here are our previous lists: Christmas reads for younger childrenChristmas reads for older children and Christmas classic crime fiction

Christmas classic crime fiction 

The staff at Brompton Library have been really busy – putting together Christmas reading lists for children and adults alike. We’ve been publishing a list every morning since Tuesday on the blog this week.

Today it’s Christmas classic crime fiction –

It’s the perfect time to come in from the cold, turn off the TV and curl up with a crime novel. Fractured family gatherings, suspicions and intrigue in remote country houses, Christmas provides the perfect backdrop to a case of murder. Here is a selection of some of the best in festive crime fiction.

Mystery in White by J Jefferson Farjeon

‘The horror on the train, great though it may turn out to be, will not compare with the horror that exists here, in this house.’

When heavy snow brings a train to a halt near a small village some of the passengers find shelter in a country house. The fire has been lit and the table laid but no one is home. As they unravel the secrets of the house, a murder strikes. A chilling Christmas classic.

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie

When multi-millionaire Simeon Lee unexpectedly invites his estranged family for Christmas, suspicions are raised. As Simeon plays with his guests’ emotions, the festive games turn deadly as he is found brutally murdered. Everyone has a motive but only one man can find out whodunit. An especially bloody Agatha Christie Christmas classic.

Murder for Christmas by Francis Duncan

Christmas Eve in a country house and the party is in full swing. As the clock strikes midnight the revellers find there’s more than just presents under the tree. Luckily one of the guests is amateur sleuth Mordecai Tremaine! Find out who killed Father Christmas in this long-forgotten classic first written in 1949.

Silent Nights: Christmas Mysteries Edited by Martin Edwards

A collection of crime fiction from some of the best writers of the genre. A mixture of much-loved classics and more obscure tales, bringing together some of the finest crime fiction of the past.

The Santa Klaus Murder by Mavis Doriel Hay

A cocktail of all the right ingredients to make the perfect country house murder-mystery. The Melbury family patriarch is found shot in the head by a guest dressed as Santa Klaus. His family all have a motive but not Santa Klaus, the only guest with many chances to pull the trigger! Get immersed in the action right beside Constable of Haulmshire as each character tells you their statement.

Crimson Snow

A collection of crime stories set in Winter, often at Christmas. With mysterious tracks in the snow, some unpleasant carol singers and a very odd Santa Claus. A perfect collection of stories, each introduced by crime expert Martin Edwards.

The Mistletoe Murder

A collection of four of the best of P. D. James Christmas short stories, originally commissioned for magazines. Each of them tantalising puzzles to be solved, she keeps you guessing to the end with her atmospheric story telling.

The Thin Man

Set in December in 1930’s New York when prohibition is coming to an end. Can the rich and glamorous Nick and Nora Charles solve a murder case in between Martinis and fast-talking wise cracks?

Murder at the Vicarage : A Christmas Mystery

As the snow deepens around the village of Byford and its residents are settling down for Christmas, the vicar’s son-in-law is murdered. With a difficult personal relationship and a group of suspects all trying to sabotage the investigation, Jill McGowan pays homage to Agatha Christie in this classic with a rather uncosy twist.

See you tomorrow for our final list!

Staff at Brompton Library

PS here are our previous lists: Christmas reads for younger children and Christmas reads for older children

Christmas reads for older children

The staff at Brompton Library have been really busy – putting together Christmas reading lists for children and adults alike. We’ll be publishing each list every morning on the blog for the rest of this week.

Today it’s Christmas reads for older children – a collection of classic tales and modern takes on Christmas themes for older children.

The Haunting of Charity Delafield

An old-fashioned tale of a girl brought up with no mother and a strict father in a vast remote house. Unable to leave the house due to an unnamed illness, Charity knows little of the outside world, or even about her own family and has just her cat and a nurse to keep her company. She is haunted by a recurring dream about a secret corridor hidden in the house. When one day she finds the corridor, it leads her on a journey of discovery about her mysterious past.

The Christmas Mystery

When a boy buys an advent calendar, he finds that each door of the calendar tells the story of a little girl who chased after a lamb and ended-up travelling back in time to Bethlehem at the time of Jesus’ birth. As he opens more doors he also finds out more about the man who made the calendar and Elizabeth Hansen a girl who disappeared many years earlier. Stories within stories in this magical Christmas mystery.

Letters from Father Christmas

Every year on Christmas Eve in the Tolkein house, a letter would arrive from Father Christmas. Tolkein wrote these for his children. The letters include stories and sketches and tales of an accident prone polar bear. Delightful for all ages.

The Fox at the Manger (we currently don’t have a copy in our catalogue but staff have requested it)

Christmas Eve and the bells of St Paul’s are ringing for the first time since the end of the war. Three boys make fun of the service until the hear the story of Christmas told by a fox and their innocence is restored. Written by Mary Poppins author L.P. Travers and recently reissued, The Fox at the Manger reminds us of the true meaning of Christmas.

A Boy Called Christmas

Born on Christmas day, Nikolas is given the nickname Christmas. When his woodcutter father is given the chance to work in the land of elves, Nikolas is left with his child-hating Aunt Carlotta but after a few months, he can stand it now more and leaves to find his father. The story of Father Christmas came to be, a magical and fun modern classic.

The Little House in the Big Woods

Part of the Little House on the prairie series, its wintertime and the Ingalls family live among the wild animals. The story tells how they live together in harmony and sometimes in fear of danger.

Mistletoe and Murder

When Daisy and Hazel go to snowy Cambridge for the Christmas holidays Hazel is expecting dreamy spires and cosy fires. Two days before Christmas there is a terrible accident. Or was it an accident. Daisy and Hazel must do everything they can to solve the mystery before Christmas.

The Dark is Rising

Its midwinter’s Eve and Will can sense that something is not right. When he wakes up and finds himself in a snow-ravaged wintery land, he realises he must find six circles of light by twelfth night to stop the world being taken over by dark forces.

The Christmasaurus

From inside the flap:

“Forget everything you thought you knew about the North Pole, pop a crumpet in the toaster and get ready to meet…a most unusual dinosaur.”

William never thought he’s find a dinosaur at the north pole, but he does! The magical home of Santa Claus brought to life as you’ve never seen it before.

Paddington and the Christmas Surprise

When Paddington visits Santa’s grotto he causes quite a stir when he gets lost in a grand London department store, but will he get to meet Santa?  A fun tale from our best loved bear.

Michael Morpurgo’s Christmas Stories

A tale on a farm, a fairy tale, Christmas in World War I and the Nativity story.  Four beautifully illustrated tales from the children’s laureate.

Reindeer Girl

On Christmas Eve on holiday in Norway, Lotta wakes up to find herself in her Grandmother’s story. She has her own reindeer and calf to look after. When the reindeer goes missing, will Lotta find her before the calf dies? And can she ever go back to ordinary life?

Little Women

Louisa May Alcott’s classic tale of coming of age with the March sisters, as they prepare for Christmas without their father. Beautifully told with real and likeable characters. A very moving and timeless story.

See you tomorrow!

Staff at Brompton Library

PS – yesterday’s post was Christmas reads for younger children